My friend Chris Brogan is blogging about confidence. I started to comment on his post, and realized what I was saying needed a full post of its own.  Confidence means many things- it can be “real” or merely a mask we put on, until we feel the strength we tend to label confidence.

I thought about this question of  “confidence”, and so many things came to mind. So I went over to the dictionary, and there are at least eight definitions of confidence:

1. full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed. The best definition, but also the one that is most used insincerely;

2. belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance: His lack of confidence defeated him.
3. certitude; assurance: He described the situation with such confidence that the audience believed him completely.
4. a confidential communication: to exchange confidences.
5. (esp. in European politics) the wish to retain an incumbent government in office, as shown by a vote in a particular issue: a vote of confidence.
6. presumption; impudence: Her disdainful look crushed the confidence of the brash young man. The dark side of confidence
7. Archaic. something that gives confidence; ground of trust.
8. in confidence, as a secret or private matter, not to be divulged or communicated to others; with belief in a person’s sense of discretion: I told him in confidence.

The root of confidence:

c.1430, from L. confidentia, from confidentem, prp. of confidere, from com- intens. prefix + fidere “to trust” (see faith).

Confidence should then be mostly about faith and fidelity.  Trust.  Honor. Hopefully not  bravado, although you see that use of the word all the time.

I have confidence when I trust in what I know; I can confide in others and share things; I sometimes lack confidence in the self-assuredness sense of the word. Why is that?

Because competence at something is often different than expertise, at least to me ,internally.

I look to experts for information, I seek mentors. I have less confidence is being a mentor or declaring myself as an expert at something. I think this is because the transition from student to teacher is not instantaneous, but a slow process we sometimes don’t even know is occurring.  One day, you are seeking information; the next, others are seeking it from you.  Shouldn’t be all that surprising, but somehow, it is.

I love the quote from Michaelangelo at 80 who said “I am still learning”.   I think I’m not comfortable being an expert because I feel I am always learning something new, yet I know in my soul I do have expertise in many areas.  Specialized knowledge I love to share with others, from all different aspects of my life.  Yet I lack confidence in owning the label of expert.  Surely, there is someone out there who knows more than I do, or who is more wise…..Is this really the fear of letting someone down?  Of finding out I could be fallible and wrong?  Probably.

And yet I firmly the believe the strongest and most courageous people are those that are willing to be wrong, to make mistakes, to revise plans and opinions, and do just a little better each and every day.

So back to confidence-  Do I have it?  A heck of a lot more than I used to.  I’ve got more self-assurance and less fear, but I only gained these things by challenging the fear in the first place.  I have faith and trust in myself, in my friends and colleagues.  I would both confide my secrets to them, and well as trust in things they had to say to me- both sides of confidence.

Yet the vagueness of the meaning of confidence comes from that “We have very confidence you’ll do the right thing” you hear, but know that is a show for the underlying lack of faith and trust they actually have. This is the classic line the President rolls out a week or two before the same person is fired.  So much for faith and trust.

In the end, I believe confidence can be one of those social masks- people believe we are confident much beofre we believe it ourselves.  And thank god for that.


1 Comment

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One response to “Confidence

  1. Thank you for waking me up to these definitions. I realized that I talk about confidence a lot but I’ve never defined it specifically.

    Your post inspired my own over here:

    Confidence is a belief in oneself, in one’s worth and power, that extends beyond what we may or may not know. It is a state of being where, even though we’re not an “expert” or we don’t know how to do this or that perfectly, we feel confident in who we are, as we are. This is true Self-Confidence.

    Thank you for helping me define it.

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